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Ukraine grain outlook bolstered by trade disputes, reports Argus Media

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World Fertilizer,

Argus Media is reporting that the outcome of trade disputes between China and the US and Canada will be a key factor in determining Ukrainian export flows in the near future, delegates heard at the Black Sea Grain conference in Kiev.

Negotiations between US and Chinese trade officials could draw to a close at the end of this month. Whatever the outcome, the end of the process is likely to dictate the direction of global grain prices and redirect international grain trade flows.

If a trade deal is reached, China will import up to 4.3 million tpy of corn from the US, Chinese trading firm Donlink Grain and Oil's director Renault Quach told the conference. If no deal is agreed, the offtake will be far lower, and this could open opportunities for Ukraine to further increase its market share in China. Ukraine has been the largest single corn supplier to China since 2015, and does have theoretical capacity to export more; its overall exports were around 4.5 million t below production in 2018–19, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Trade tensions could also affect the fundamentals for barley. China could import feed barley, which it uses interchangeably with sorghum, from Ukraine should no agreement with the US be reached. China depends on malting barley imports from Australia and Canada, for which it has stable demand. However, Beijing has a trade dispute over Canadian canola exports, and is carrying out an anti-dumping investigation into Australian malting barley. Quach sees an opening for Ukraine here as well.

"There is a big opportunity for Ukraine to export [malting barley] to China", he said. However, Ukrainian feed grains are likely to lose Chinese market share if a deal is reached before mid-2019.

Ukraine's rapeseed growers could find an opportunity in the trade conflict between Canada and China, according to UkrAgroConsult's oilseed expert Julia Garkavenko. Although Ukraine does not have a permit to import rapeseed into China, this could change in the future.

"Ukraine's representatives have already left for China to solve this issue", Garkavenko told Argus. Ukraine will send rapeseed oil to China until a permit is granted.

"Ukraine could be an attractive alternative" for China, Garkavenko told the conference, adding that RSO exports to China have already picked up pace in the past year.

The prospect of a trade deal between China and the US is already buoying global grains markets, US agricultural advisory AgResource's president Dan Basse said in Kiev. “With world stocks at long-term highs, grain prices should really be lower than they are,” Basse said. He sees the chances of a trade deal as fairly high. Quach agreed, telling Argus: "I believe there will be a deal".

Quach said while the importance of US feed grain for China has been in steady decline, "There is no other market in the world to replace [Chinese] import volumes of soybean and sorghum" which means that China is in a strong negotiating position. However, while China's grain sector could adjust to a no-deal scenario, trade disputes particularly threaten the country's manufacturing sectors, said Quach.

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